Saturday, 25 January 2014

Rachael Allen ♥

Flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone        © Rachael Allen
The anatomy lab     © Rachael Allen

Doctors, Health Professional and their Patients, drawing commission for Edinburgh University Medical Humanities Research Network website   © Rachael Allen
Untitled (medical cot) © Rachael Allen   -   Untitled (chemotherapy chair) ©Rachael Allen

Untitled (mortuary table) © Rachael Allen   -   Untitled (infant casket) © Rachael Allen
Rachael Allen is another visual artist discovered during my search for the DAW project. Although neither a mother or a wife she got in touch, sending such incredibly eye catching images that I became immediately intrigued. Her stark, miniature sculptures of hospital equipment - made from common everyday materials - bear no blood nor body; only a familiarity of the life and death iconography from a medical point of view. 

Her drawings are the result of time spent in university anatomy labs: "She strives to marry the visual, intellectual and emotional elements of these environments to render drawings that focus attention on the sensory experience of anatomy...illustrating the specifics of doctor-patient relationship, illness experience and narrative medicine".

Between the ages of 19 and 23 Rachael battled with Anorexia. Her chronic condition saw her in and out of hospital several times. "Death was my artistic interest and my reality" she says, but she had to choose to save her life in order to keep producing art.  

I found writing this post an arduous but significant experience. Having myself been through Anorexia during my teens and having faced death several times in my life, Rachael's work touched a nerve. They reminded me of the precariousness of life, death and illness. Issues that most of us are not really good at facing up to or accepting. However, although these images might at first have made me feel uncomfortable, I was able to see beyond my fears. 

Rachael's sculptures are appealing, fascinating and somehow...elegant. Like Rachael puts it "The reduction in size and absence of bloody hues makes what is inescapably graphic and gory, somewhat more palatable, and even beautiful." 

To me, Rachael's work is not about death but about survival and therefore life. She makes existence uncomplicated and easy to understand, we are what we are. And what we are is human. 

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